1Somali pirates hold booty for $20 million ransom
In November 2008, a band of Somali pirates caused an uproar when they hijacked a Ukrainian freighter 200 miles off the coast of Somalia. “We just saw a big ship,” claimed one of the pirates, “so we stopped it.” Imagine their surprise when their booty turned out to be $30 million worth of tanks, grenade launchers, and other heavy weaponry. They decided to start bargaining at $20 million in cash “That's deal-making,” explained the leader. “We don't consider ourselves sea bandits...Think of us like a coast guard.” Eventually, a release of the ship, it's crew, and cargo was negotiated.
Somalia is considered one of the largest breeding grounds for pirates in the world. Most are fishermen who are desperate to get by in one of the world's poorest regions.
2An America's Cup winner in the wrong place at the wrong time is gunned down by pirates
In December 2001, New Zealander Sir Peter Blake, a two-time winner of the America's Cup, was gunned down by a pirate gang known as the Water Rats, in the remote Brazilian city of Macapa.
As Blake returned from dining on shore to his yacht and crew, eight men in motorcycle helmets pulled up to his boat in a rubber dinghy and began making demands. Blake went for his gun and shot one of the gang before being killed by the robbers. Blake had been traveling with a crew of 14 (including his daughter) and was likely unknown to the assailants. "There is no way the pirates knew who he was. For them he was just another tourist with a large boat," said one media source in Brazil. His assailants were eventually captured and sentenced for his murder.
3The pirates harassing fishermen off the coast of Antarctica
Not all pirates are taking hostages and booty for ransom; some are conservationists. The militant anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd-rammed a Japanese whaling ship with their own vessel, the "Bob Barker" (yes, named after the Price is Right host, and ardent animal-rights activist), in 2013. The organization has been chasing down whaling ships off Antarctica, harassing the fishermen, and taking extreme measures to protect the mammals. "You don't need a peg leg or an eye patch," claims Judge Alex Kozinski of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. "When you ram ships; hurl containers of acid; drag metal-reinforced ropes in the water to damage propellers and rudders; launch smoke bombs and flares with hooks; and point high-powered lasers at other ships, you are, without a doubt, a pirate, no matter how high-minded you believe your purpose to be."
4Real-Life "Pirates of the Caribbean" rob a vacationing family
The luxurious yachts sailing through Caribbean waters, loaded with wealthy tourists, will often attract the attention of local pirates. In December 2008, a group of vacationing friends had anchored their 70-foot yacht in the harbor of scenic Chateaubelair when three men armed with guns and other weapons climbed aboard their ship in the middle of the night. After taking in jewelry, cash, cameras, and cellphones worth thousands of dollars, the bandits commanded the captain of the ship to steer the vessel out into the sea, or be blasted by rocket-propelled grenades.
One of the victims, a mother of three from Cleveland, recounted the surreal feeling of being victimized by real-life "Pirates of the Caribbean." "There are times when it's happening, and you think it's not real," she said. "At one point one of them said, 'If you don't find your wallet, I'll kill you,' and I was so traumatized I forgot that I hadn't brought my wallet on the trip. I was saying, 'Oh my God, I can't find it! I've got to find it!' thinking about our kids at home."
5The pirates who used old fashioned swords to attack a ship
While most modern day pirates come armed with the latest in weaponry, marauders used old fashioned methods in a May 2016 attack on a ship near Georgetown, Guyana. Armed with cutlasses, five men pulled up alongside and boarded a fishing vessel, tied up the four-man crew, threw the captain overboard, and took off with the ship's two motors. The captain was found drifting in the ocean and was rescued by another fishing boat, but the rest of the crew wasn't so fortunate—three men were never found, and the last was found dead.
6The cruise ship passengers who used everyday materials to scare off pirates
The cruise ship Seabourn Spirit was sailing about 100 miles off the coast of Somalia on its way from Egypt to Mombasa, Kenya when it was attacked by a pair of Somali pirate ships. The 302 mostly American passengers were terrified when their boat was fired upon with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades. "My daughter saw the pirates out our window," passenger Edith Laird from Seattle, "There were at least three RPG that hit the ship, one in a stateroom four doors down from our cabin," she said. The quick thinking crew of the ocean liner, lacking any suitable weapons to retaliate, decided to use an onboard acoustic bang to scare off the pirates, who believed they were under return fire.
7Several nations join in the fight against Somali pirates
Somali piracy has become such a huge problem in the Gulf of Aden, joint operations between nations are now being carried out to protect shipping lanes. In April 2017, when the merchant ship OS 35 sailing from Malaysia to Yemen was attacked, the navies of India and China came to the rescue of 19 Filipino crewmen trapped in the lower decks of the bulk carrier. Using Indian helicopters and Chinese warships, they thwarted the pirates and escorted the ship safely to port.
According to the International Maritime Bureau, Somali pirates took hundreds of hostages, earning an estimated $160 million in ransoms, and costing the world economy $7 billion.
8The U.S. sailors who were singled out and held for ransom by Nigerian pirates
It was something of a surprise when two American sailors—a captain and chief engineer—were singled out for kidnapping, and held for ransom by Nigerian pirates. During the storming of a U.S. flagged oil transport vessel, the C-Retriever, the Americans were separated from the crew and taken from the ship. Although the American government has a policy against paying ransom for kidnapped US Citizens, they will get involved in negotiations. "If you take the Americans, you get a good price, but at the same time you bring a lot of heat on you too," said a former senior FBI agent. The FBI and the State Department were able to secure freedom for the 2 Americans, by enabling an unnamed 3rd party (presumed to be a representative of an insurance company) to deliver a $2 million ransom.
9The pirates who changed a ship's name to keep it hidden from authorities
The Strait of Malacca running between Malaysia and Indonesia, a shipping superhighway where more than half the oil imported by Japan and China is carried, are thought to be some of the world's most dangerous waters. An attack in May 2014 displayed some of the brazen characteristics common to the area's well-coordinated pirates.
As evening approached, ten armed men pulled up to the tanker Orapin 4 in a speedboat and burst onto the bridge of the carrier. The ship was carrying fuel between Singapore and Borneo for a Thai shipping company. The 14 man crew was locked below the deck, and the communications system was disabled. The pirates then covered the first and last letters of the boat name, distorting the name to read "Rapi." When the ship was declared missing in radio alerts, the "Rapi" went unnoticed by other boats in the area. Meanwhile, the bandits siphoned off 3,700 metric tons of fuel into another boat and made off with $1.9 million in fuel.
10Peruvian criminals, inspired by the success of African pirates, take to the seas
Peru isn't commonly associated with piracy, yet pirates inspired by some of the highly-publicized successes of Somali and Nigerian raiders in African waters, have sprung up in South America. A band of criminals known as "the pirates of the sea" rowed out to a Japanese tuna trawler, the Kenyu Maru II, as it lay anchored 3 miles outside the port of Callao. The gang surprised and captured the 15-man crew, bound their hands and feet, then looted the fishermen's belongings, and left with the boat's communication equipment.